RaveBooklistWritten with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and hearts beating ... McColl’s resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy.
RaveBooklistVijay intertwines her story’s threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.
PositiveBooklistCharacterizations and mood drive this novel. While historical details about Tenn[essee Williams], his work, and his world bolster the story, it primarily belongs to Frank ... With imagination and feeling, Castellani reconjures history to reveal the intricate dynamics—loving and passionate, selfless and devastating—among artists and those who nurture them.
PositiveBooklistHeartfelt ... Though Iris’ death is the heart of her debut, Adkins keeps an overall lighthearted tone; hilariously hair-pulling emails from Carl and comments on Iris’ blog provide frequent comic relief. A natural read-alike for Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments (2011).
PositiveBooklistDread and a lush natural world infuse Maren’s noir-tinged debut as she carefully relays soul-crushing realities and myths of poverty and privilege, luck and rehabilitation, and the human needs that can precede criminality through love-starved loner Jodi and her band of fellow hungry souls.
PositiveBooklist\"Readers fond of protagonists who profess to guzzling wine at nine a.m. will breeze right through this one’s bad decisions, moments of shocking clarity and cruelty, and—no spoilers!—total undoing. A dark and stylish drama featuring a self-aware yet unstable narrator.\
PositiveBooklistRoupenian has an ear for dialogue and a knack for satire, and she often tips her characters into dark fantasy worlds and even-stranger realities to get at their ultimate truths ... Curious readers will be rewarded.
RaveBooklistEnglish humorist, novelist, and author of the delightful epistolary memoir, Love, Nina, Stibbe has a few words for people who love and hate Christmas in this little collection ... Funny, smart, sweet, and tender, this is greater than a gift book and readable any time of year.
Matias Faldbakken, trans. by Alice Menzies
RaveBooklistNorwegian author Faldbakken’s U.S. debut unfolds over five days inside The Hills, an Oslo establishment akin to (though decidedly not as grand as) the \'Grand European\' restaurants of yore: marble tables; uniformed staff; creased everything; snails on the menu ... Faldbakken, who’s also a visual artist, paints The Hills’ interiors, the waiter’s psyche, and diners’ interactions with a deep, often-funny theatricality. For those who love encapsulated novels with a touch of the absurd.
RaveBooklist\"Divided into three sections that correspond to the album’s songs, videos, and progression, the book seems to translate the visual and audio to another plane entirely, and will undoubtedly inspire much rewatching and relistening. Tinsley’s many lenses, both academic and personal, make for a rich and exciting study of the modern masterpiece she calls \'(arguably) the most widely distributed black feminist text of the current moment.\'\
PositiveBooklistShort but mighty ... Maintains a remarkable confluence of palpable mood, a capricious and shifting tone, and wise character studies ... An original and affecting tour of family, the calendar, and the days that bind us to both.
Annie Goetzinger, Trans. by Montana Kane
PositiveBooklistCarving a niche as the creator of gorgeously illustrated, well-documented historical tales focusing on women’s lives, French artist Goetzinger...gives voice to her muse here, incorporating Colette’s own words into the narration. Goetzinger’s fashion-illustration background again shines in precise, realistic, sensually drawn figures and a lush palette, fitting her Belle Epoque setting, while her page layout keeps all the pace and appeal of traditional comics-reading.
PositiveBooklistRobinson maintains a baseline of free-associating, footnoting, list-making hilarity which both disarms and readies readers for the tougher truths she tackles ... particularly poignant are her essays about money and feminism.
PositiveBooklist\"Photos, pressed flowers, personal letters, historical documents, and her own illustrations and comics make up Krug’s mixed-media illustration style, with which she conveys significant emotion. Backgrounds and text are occasionally both so light or dark that her words are practically illegible text is often broken by illustrations in the center of the page, adding to the essentially fragmented nature of her search. A deep and affecting mix of text and illustration.\
RaveBooklist\"...Laymon, now a university writing professor himself, recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth. He captures his confusion at being molested by his babysitter and at witnessing older boys abuse a girl he liked; at having no food in the house despite his mother’s brilliance; at being beaten and loved ferociously, often at the same time. His hungry mind and body grow, until, like a flipping switch, at college he’s compelled to shrink himself with a punishing combination of diet and exercise. And that’s barely the start of his life story thus far, with remembered moments in book-lined rooms and smoky casinos, conversations that leap from the page, the digits on a scale, and scrolling sentences ... So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing.
RaveBooklist OnlineGerald opens his memoir by describing himself at age 12, sitting in a church pew in great anticipation of the impending Rapture. When the clock turns and 1999 becomes 2000 and he and his fellow congregants remain, is he relieved, or disappointed? Gerald then looks back at the beginning, as he remembers it ... Gerald pulls no punches in telling his extraordinary story, which he relates with unsparing truth, no small amount of feeling, and a complete lack of sentimentality. Painful lessons dart in and pummel his unsuspecting self, and scenes of startling intensity are often pierced—and pieced back together—by light and humor. Also an accomplished public speaker, Gerald will hook readers with richly layered writing on poverty, progress, race, belief, and the actual American Dream.
RaveBooklist Online\"In the early aughts, Hopper was a twentysomething going to shows, DJing, and riding her bike in a Chicago that, in many ways, already no longer exists. This time capsule of a collection documents, in journal-like bits, all this in tandem with the growth of her career as a professional music critic ... Hopper is ever-quotable, gut-checkingly deep, and laugh-out-loud funny.
RaveBooklist\"For her imaginative coming-of-age memoir, graphic novelist and New Yorker cartoonist Finck has changed some names, including her own. Starting anew, with a brand-new title page several times throughout the book, \'Leola\' wonders what story to tell and how best to tell it. Early on, she introduces the concept of her shadow, a companion who guided her before disappearing when she was a preteen. Should she begin with her mother, who taught her daughter the benefits of shadow-companionship, or her father, who passed his unique weirdness directly on to her? ... A sure hit for readers of graphic memoirs, this explores feeling different while recognizing sameness in others and making art while embracing being a work-in-progress oneself.
PositiveBooklist\"If Frey can’t make readers forget his highly public literary lows, he proves he can dynamically reimagine his past into a page-turner, in his signature stream-of-consciousness style.\
PositiveBooklistMorgan...builds her discussion of Lauryn Hill’s seminal 1998 album...on a framework of conversations ... [that] encompasses a wide spectrum of opinions. ... The two-decade distance adds other dimensions, too, in considering how very young Hill was when she released her masterpiece (only 23), how meaningful her decision to become a mother at that stage of her life was, the unbelievable pressure placed on her, and how early fame affected all that followed for her. A shoo-in for lovers of music writing, who will appreciate DJ Beverly Bond’s included playlist of 40-plus tracks that wouldn’t exist without Hill’s influence.
PositiveBooklistLarison gifts Jess with a strong voice to narrate her own story ... Larison...writes the novel’s many action scenes with restraint, and adds considerations of race, class, and religion to Jess’ realizations about gender. Larison’s western epic has wide appeal and is already in development for film.
RaveBooklist OnlineAnderson’s conversational prose and spirited chapters, grouped into sections, are a good match for his information-packed style. In the section \'Color,\' for instance, his layer-cake approach stacks racial injustice and civil rights activism in OKC’s history; Thunder center Daniel Orton, a hometown player, recalling a racially charged moment in his high-school basketball career; and Wayne Coyne, eccentric front man for the Flaming Lips and legendary lifelong OKC resident, convincing Anderson to help him add a literal rainbow to the city’s streets overnight ... Reading Anderson’s time-traveling, civics-minded, and thoroughly person-focused story of OKC, one gets the feeling that his research didn’t uncover a single fact that he could keep to himself, and his enthusiasm for the city’s singularity—and the implications of it—is beyond infectious.
RaveBooklist...the pleasure for readers is in piecing together their echoing, diverging stories. On their own, Teo’s sharp characterizations and setting—so alive that the book seems to create its own, humid microclimate—would set this book apart. Add to that her imaginative plot, prose that turns from humor to devastation on a dime, and original storytelling, and Ponti is a beyond-promising debut.
RaveBooklist\"Virgil’s narration is a joy: he lost his adjectives in the crash, making for their gleeful insertion each time he remembers one. Enger populates down-on-its-luck Greenstone with true characters—charming Virgil, his love interest, friends, and not-quite-friends, and even some wily wildlife—and gives them diverting plotlines aplenty, but the focus of his bright and breathing third novel feels mostly like life itself, in all its smallness and bigness, and what it means to live a good one.\
RaveBooklist\"Locascio practically invents a new language, conjuring pure feelings and colors, for their sex, which casts a strong spell over Roxana until, almost as quickly, Søren closes himself to her. Simultaneously naive and aware, Roxana holds on until Søren’s darkness becomes impossible to ignore, and her curiosity about a Bosnian refugee whom Søren derides overtakes all else. This provocative, intimate, and metamorphosing character study vividly captures a young woman’s life-earned education.\
RaveBooklist\"Evans zooms out to build her characters’ culturally rich backstories as they struggle to recognize their older selves and the relationships that have aged along with them. A probing, entertaining, and self-affirming novel of men and women getting relatably lost in the crises and hauntings of early midlife.\
RaveBooklist Online...Many stories hold highly dimensioned characters and unforgettable moments in under a few pages ... Dismantling the glib misconceptions of her complex ancestral home, Gay cuts and thrills. Readers will find her powerful first book difficult to put down.
PositiveBooklistJune tackles both the instructive, such as making rules and routines for Zelda that free them both, and the revelatory, those thoughts of her mother and her mother’s illness that appeared in the new creative space that becoming Zelda’s mom opened for her and begged to be put, however painfully, on the page. Warm, wrenching, and full of light, June’s first book joins a spate of recent memoirs by new mothers that includes Meaghan O’Connell’s And Now We Have Everything and Jessica Friedman’s Things That Helped.
RaveBooklistAlthough the realities are devastating, the doctors, the bereaved, and the advocates Macy introduces do offer hope. Hers is a crucial and many-faceted look at a still-unfolding national crisis, making this a timely and necessary read.
MixedBooklist OnlinePittard’s fourth novel, imagines the lives of several Atlanta residents in the aftermath of a 1962 airplane crash, a true event in which 130 people, many of them among Atlanta’s wealthiest citizens, perished ... Readers follow several...characters, including the city’s mayor and his wife, each grieving the city’s incalculable loss differently ... Individual players can, at times, feel underdeveloped, and the story unfocused. Atlanta native Pittard fills the novel with historical details, local points of reference, and distinct examinations of race and class, though, making it an evocative and discussion-worthy choice for readers who appreciate vivid settings.
PositiveBooklist\"Readers might have trouble \'getting\' her, but there is one thing they’ll know that she doesn’t, given the time and place. Propulsive, both disturbing and funny, and smart as hell.\
Tara Isabella Burton
RaveBooklistThis fast-paced, stylish, dialogue- and character-driven debut from journalist and scholar Burton will definitively ensnare readers. Diabolically playing on what we think we know about others and what we reveal about ourselves in the social-media age, it will give readers the creeps, too.
RaveBooklistKate is by far the best part of a book that has loads of great parts. She’s brilliant, funny, and tender as she observes the new foreignness of her marriage, her teenage children, her workplace, and her own self ... Tackling sexism, growing older, and understanding one’s needs when catering to those of so many others, Pearson writes realism with all the fun of escapism.
RaveBooklist\"While anticipation of the powwow provides a baseline of suspense, the path Orange lights through these and his novel’s many other stories thrills on its own. Engrossing at its most granular, in characters’ thoughts and fleeting moments, There There introduces an exciting voice.\
RaveBooklistSedaris’ family and upbringing have long been mainstays in his work, but this collection encompasses perhaps his most tender writing on the subjects yet ... For readers concerned that Sedaris has become too reverent, there’s also an episode in which he seeks connection with a tortoise via hilariously head-scratching means. Readers may think they know what to expect from Sedaris; they’ll be both surprised and delighted.
PositiveBooklistStrong characters, settings, and ambiance mark Winman’s unique and uniquely affecting story of love’s varieties, phases, and ability to bend time.
RaveBooklistAs in his previous novels, most recently Insignificant Others (2010), McCauley delights with intimately, often hilariously observed characters and a winking wit that lets plenty of honest tenderness shine through. Readers will love spending time in these pages.
RaveBooklist\"In a banner year for woman-falls-for-sea-creature stories Lucy, a wry and lovable lost soul, tells a tale that’s all her own ... In her first novel, essayist, poet, and Twitter-star Broder wraps timeless questions of existence—those that gods and stars have been beseeched to answer for millennia—in the weirdest, sexiest, and most appealing of modern packaging. Brilliant and delightful.\
PositiveBooklist\"Award-winning Shriver’s enthusiastic audience will delight in her clever and literary analyses of the spaces we occupy, and how they’re all too often no broader than a knife’s edge.\
PositiveBooklistMost impressive are the ways Greathead restrainedly shows her characters stretching at the seams of their own by-now-inherited restraint, and she paints their immense privilege with knowing nuance. Greathead’s smart and original take on the mother-daughter novel impresses and charms.
RaveBooklistHeti’s (How Should a Person Be?, 2010) novel of a woman pondering what’s perhaps life’s most essential—and most endlessly debatable—decision is a provocative, creative, and triumphant work of philosophical feminist fiction ... As her character seeks and ultimately chooses, as she must, the aspects of life and art she’ll lay claim to, Heti writes with courage, curiosity, and uncommon truth: \'To go along with what nature demands and to resist it—both are really beautiful—impressive and difficult in their own ways.\'
RaveBooklistMasterfully plotted and often further gilded with mirthful twists, Sittenfeld’s short-form works (half of which are published here for the first time) are every bit as smart, sensitive, funny, and genuine as her phenomenally popular novels.
RaveBooklist\"Though Chee, who now teaches at Dartmouth, in a very welcome way makes students of readers, his audience is in no way limited to writers. His quotable, pristine essays consider Chee’s family’s struggles, his AIDS activism and related losses, his tarot obsession, the labor of writing, the legacies of trauma, and the essentiality of making and having art. Hand to readers searching for something to follow 2017’s incredible parade of writers’ memoirs.\
RaveBooklist Online\"Endlessly introspective, wide-ranging, and lucid, Pardlo’s fearless inventory stuns with beautifully written, fully saturated snapshots of rich and complicated familial love.\
Anthony Ray Hinton, co-written with Lara Love Hardin
RaveBooklistHis memoir, collaboratively written with Hardin, is a troubling, moving, and ultimately exalting journey through the decades Hinton lived under the threat of death while an unjust system that refused to acknowledge mistakes failed him repeatedly ... Even more powerful than the crushing terror of serving a death sentence while innocent are Hinton’s refusal to be diminished by it and his unwavering commitment to forgiveness. Lighting unfathomable places, Hinton’s gripping story asks readers to do the same.
PositiveBooklistAusten’s impressive study of Chicago’s 23-tower Cabrini-Green public housing project, razed but its legacy looming still, was conducted during years of reporting and interviewing ... Highlighting these many-faceted lives and the care Cabrini residents took to safeguard and improve their part of an ever-changing neighborhood, Austen examines the finger-pointing and buck-passing among power players that gravely impacted the most vulnerable occupants ... As the buildings’ demolition, completed in 2011, has left former residents in worse and more precarious situations, Austen’s fascinating narrative demands much consideration.
RaveBooklist\"Though Anna, who readers will empathize with and root for, drinks and behaves erratically, this is no new Girl novel. As for the massacre itself, focus stays on the victims, and violence occurs mainly off the page. Combining a deep character study, prescient satire, and an unfortunately all-too-timely evisceration of U.S. gun culture, McAllister’s well-voiced and remarkably observed page-turner is in almost all ways an anti-thriller—itself a comment on the current, terrifying mundanity of similar events.\
Domenico Starnone, Trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri
PositiveBooklist\"Lahiri, who also translated Starnone’s Ties (2016), once again treats English-language readers to the boldly entertaining work of the celebrated Italian novelist.\
RaveBooklist\"Laugh-out-loud funny seems too trite a phrase for a writer whose takes are so addictively original and unexpected, but it’s also true: dear readers, you will laugh. Whether 2 or 20 pages in length, Crosley’s essays are complete and stop-you-in-your-tracks clever.\
PositiveBooklistA little bit like The Big Chill, Kauffman’s quiet and deep second novel reconciles the responsibilities we carry and the secrets we keep with the outsize pleasure of being known and loved by a chosen family.
RaveBooklist OnlineTamirat’s razor-sharp prose fashions a magnificently dimensional and emotionally resonant narrator, herself a storyteller who frames her own tale with beguiling skill. This debut is remarkable in every way.
RaveBooklistSpanning several eras, up to Andy’s present day, this is a coming-out and coming-of-age story; a surprise-I’m-pregnant story; a will-they-or-won’t-they love story; and an ode to a time and place we think we’ve heard everything about—and it’s all utterly fresh. Portraying Portland and Andy’s chosen family with feeling and immense charm, Johnson paints Andy’s love—for her kid, her city, herself, and others—in all its thorny nuance and surprising glory. Recommend this to Jami Attenberg and Rainbow Rowell fans.
Krystal A Sital
RaveBooklistBoth expansive and distilled, it is also transporting in its depiction of Sital’s ancestral island home in its vibrancy, beauty, and blight ... Sital’s tribute is staggering. Most piercingly, she relays with a detachment that reads like love the ways these women were fiercely determined to escape the formidable hardships of their past, foremost for the sake of their children, yet were all but doomed to repeat them. Sital’s bracing, loving blend of memoir and family history is not to be missed.
RaveBooklistThrough Alice’s layered narration, which is memoiristic in its true-feeling fullness and analysis, readers catch glimpses of her mostly happy marriage and her nonetheless easier-than-expected demolition of it. But that’s only half of her moving and propulsive tale ... Perfect for fans of deep-dive character studies in strong, moody settings.
RaveBooklistIn his third book, Iweala...delivers with immediate poignancy Niru’s struggles between rejecting his parents’ constrictions and yearning for them; between embracing his sexuality and believing there’s a cure for it, and that it should be cured at all ... Portraying cross-generational and -cultural misunderstandings with anything but simplicity, Iweala tells an essential American story.
RaveBooklistRemaining as objective as he can, and without moralizing or sounding academic, Cantú offers explanations of the policies and realities that keep the border an intensely scrutinized topic of public discussion. The final—and possibly best—portion of the book finds Cantú, once again a civilian, becoming involved in the case of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. A heart-wrenching, discussion-provoking perspective on how a border, the separation of two countries, can tear apart families, lives, and a sense of justice.
Terese Marie Mailhot
PositiveBooklist\"Mailhot’s first book defies containment and categorization. In titled essays, it is a poetic memoir told in otherworldly sentences ... Not shy, nor raw, nor typical in any way, this is a powerfully crafted and vulnerable account of living and writing about it.\
Melissa del Bosque
RaveBooklistDel Bosque, a National Magazine Award–winning investigative reporter for the Texas Observer, chronicles the FBI’s discovery of a Mexican cartel’s elaborate scheme to launder money through the U.S. purchase and racing of quarter horses ... Del Bosque breaks up the complex tale into brief, fluidly narrated, suspenseful chapters. Fully portraying the many key players and following the intricacies of the Treviños’ sophisticated plan, the FBI’s race against other federal agencies and the press to crack it, the gut-dropping dynamics of cartel coercion and retribution, and the eventual, dramatic trial, del Bosque recounts a true story that reads like crime fiction.
RaveBooklist\"Abdurraqib writes with uninhibited curiosity and insight about music and its ties to culture and memory, life and death, on levels personal, political, and universal. He’s interested in what sells and what’s currency, how music reminds us of who we love or who we’ve lost or who we once were ... Abdurraqib’s poignant critiques, a catalog of the current moment and all that preceded it, inspire us to listen with our whole selves.\
RaveBooklistWeiner’s award-winning writing and producing of such renowned television shows as The Sopranos and Mad Men is neatly evident in his quietly thrilling debut novel. Written in descriptive and illuminating scene-like snippets — though nearly free of dialogue — this one-sitting read concerns the eerily shared delusions of a privileged Manhattan family and a man who stalks the periphery of their lives ... The sense of doom is sharply rendered, characters are well developed, and their motivations are finely wrought. Readers will hope for more book-form fiction from Weiner.
RaveBooklist Journalist Gordon again fascinatingly chronicles the remarkable life of an elite twentieth-century American woman … Readers interested in gardening, art, and interior design will drool over Bunny’s fine tastes, and her ease at fulfilling every one of them, but all lovers of biographies will marvel at Gordon’s portrayal of Bunny’s long life, and the significant figures who buzzed in and out of it.
RaveBooklistEugenides’ first story collection is gifted with the strong voices and luminous prose his novels are known for ... Stories probe aging and agency, sex and death, with Eugenides’ trademark wit and deadpan grace. Cunning, comic, and clueless characters hatch plans to restore their unfairly sapped potential and deal with the results—some successful, some unanticipated, some unsavory—while Eugenides captures the places they’re in, both physical and metaphorical, with precision. Early on, old friends wonder, 'What was it about complaining that felt so good?' Readers will enjoy lamenting that this complete and utterly human collection must, after all, end.
RaveBooklistPoetic, heartrending, soothing, and funny, this is a mind-expanding contemplation of creation, the act and the noun, and the creatures whose deaths we presume will precede ours but whose lives make our own better beyond reason. To this, readers should bring tissues, pencil and paper, even their dogs.
Danielle S. Allen
RaveBooklistAllen, whose writing is creative and accessible, uses her finely tuned talent to fold Michael’s fate into the gathering storms of the U.S. criminal-justice system and Los Angeles’ gang-related and racial turmoil. Both a searching, personal elegy and a sure-footed lamentation of the systems meant to protect us, this is a searing must-read.
PositiveBooklistAn absorbing story ... In his moving first book, Rachlin, with confidence and care, relays both the terrifying personal costs and complex legalities, so dependent on fallible humans, of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
RaveBooklist...it’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional ... The story of her body is, understandably, linked to the story of her life; she tells both, and plumbs discussions about both victims of sexual violence and people whose bodies don’t adhere to the ideal of thinness. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.
PositiveBooklistRadtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them ... n her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?
RaveBooklistGrann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates.
RaveBooklist...[a] vivid debut ... Though Cat tells her story in flashbacks, Buntin’s prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque.
PositiveBooklistIn leaving apparent holes or unanswered questions in her layered story, Hoffman is fearless and trusting of her readers, and her precise prose captures the novel’s many settings—Greece, Washington State, New York City—and her characters’ feelings and actions, vividly.
PositiveBooklistWinder effectively stops time and keeps readers drifting through a montage of Monroe’s ’55 datebook. Relying on accounts of those who made up Monroe’s 'blonde orbit,' Winder sometimes delves too deeply into these peripheral lives. Still, this sympathetic portrayal of a brilliant artist who was dying to be taken seriously is full of quotes, anecdotes, and impressions that will please the many who wish they knew her.